Smed has canceled Hero's Song, offers everyone refunds

Pixelmage Games, the indie studio headed up by MMO veteran John Smedley, announced today that it is folding up, which means Hero's Song is coming to an end.

"It's with a heavy heart that I have to report that Pixelmage Games is going to be shutting down and we have ceased development on Hero's Song. For the last year, our team has worked tirelessly to make the game we've dreamed about making, and with your support, and the support of our investors, we were able to get the game into Early Access. Unfortunately sales fell short of what we needed to continue development. We knew going in that most startups don't make it, and as an indie game studio we hoped we would be the exception to that rule, but as it turned out we weren't."

Notably, the team says that anyone who purchased the game is entitled to claim a refund -- through Steam the old-fashioned way or by email if you're an Indiegogo contributor.

Hero's Song was announced just a year ago as a retro-graphics sandbox MMOARPG; though its original Kickstarter was canceled when it appeared it wouldn't fund, the team was confident in its ability to launch in October based on investment funding. Its Indiegogo campaign this past fall pulled in nearly $100,000.

We had a hint that this was coming earlier in December when rumors that the game was in trouble began to surface. At the time, the studio would neither confirm nor deny the rumors on the record and would publicly say only that "money is tight" and that it was "working through some things."

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222 comments
ashfyn
ashfyn

It was a straight up boring game.  Not ready even for Early Access.  I was totally floored by how really not fun it was. 

Lights_andMusic
Lights_andMusic

Serious question for people with more familiarity with the industry - does this end Smed's career as a lead game designer at this point?

Ganymede
Ganymede

@Lights_andMusic He's like athlete's foot:  hard to get rid of, and guaranteed to come back at some point. 

Denngar
Denngar

This is one of the biggest reasons I don't go with Indiegogo projects. At least with Kickstarter they need to meet a goal to keep the money, and not being able to make that goal (even if it's low) makes me wonder how well the developers understand their audience and the cost of production. 

That being said, Smed offering refunds is a classy move I wish more people in the industry would do when it's possible. Smed's not perfect, but I feel he does try to do right by people

Dobablo
Dobablo

One of the best uses for Kickstarter is as a metric for potential paying customers in you game. Unless the campaign was bungled a failed Kickstarter means the product should be scaled down or refocused. Hero's Song didn't change enough to become viable.

All days and done I consider it a decent failure and Smed's gone up in my estimation over the last year.

LyalinDotCom
LyalinDotCom

I'm a big fan of MMO's and all ... but really, who didn't see that this was the wrong game to make? its whole approach was very wrong to actually create a worthy product that would sustain a new company. I really feel bad for the developers but Smed should have known better, shame on him.

Armsbend
Armsbend

@LyalinDotCom if it would have been a little game made a tiny few - i think it could have been a success to move on to bigger things.  But he used it as a platform for bigger things with a team of non-talents.

PizzaDoh
PizzaDoh

I laughed out loud...then I felt rude, mainly for the devs who got suckered into wasting their time on this.


I'm surprised it got canned but I was certain it'd be a flop so it's probably for the best for everybody involved in this (including people who had hope for the game who would soon be very let down).

Serrenity
Serrenity

Wow, I didn't really expect this, this quickly. It kinda floors me that an industry veteran would have to close down so soon.  I backed the game, and while I didn't play it all that much, it looked like it a had a lot of promise, and I was looking forward to trying it out (I was hoping for a slightly more forgiving version of Dwarf Fortress).  I'm bummed that it went down, and I'm wondering what this means for Smedley. I know he's not a popular guy, but he's a vet of the MMO genre, of the 'way things were' in the pre-WoW years that I'm hoping we continue to match on.  I think he could still be a big part of that movement, so I hope he still lands somewhere in gaming.  

Serrenity
Serrenity

Also I hope his staff get good severances packages and have a plan for next steps.  I feel like in this situations they probably know this stuff is coming have a plan in place long before the general public does, so we can hope that there. 

Armsbend
Armsbend

@Serrenity their hands were out knowing this one would fail.  quit worrying so much about shitty projects.  they dont give two fucks about you.

picks86
picks86

I thought they had a neat idea and was happy to back. While I was not a fan of the "current" status of the game, I knew my Indiegogo backing was a shot in the dark. For that reason I will not be asking them for a refund to help make sure their people get paid for their work. Sad to see a game flop.

jeremy2020
jeremy2020

The game looked ok, but nothing jumped out to me. That with Smed's name being attached made me hold off on putting any money down. Unfortunately, his track record hurts him.

FlyinDutchman
FlyinDutchman

How's he going to give everyone refunds when the studio has no money?

MCBarkingSpoon
MCBarkingSpoon

I remember someone made a fake MySpace account for Smed and his occupation was "Creating worlds then destroying them."

Cramit
Cramit

This game never captured me but it's still sad to see something else bite the dust.


Although now I keep wondering, will Smedley team up with McQuaid again and help with Pantheon or would that be a bad thing?  Not really sure but he obviously has time on his hands now.  I wonder what he will do moving forward.

melissaheather
melissaheather

There is a huge difference in drawing a salary at a job, and in being the boss and responsible for signing the checks (and providing the money to do that).

It's a different world now, being a game author is just as competitive as writing a book, or a song. Good luck with that, kid! (said from years of beating my head against the wall of the music industry)

Winterstone
Winterstone

I didn't like JS one bit but in all honesty this game had great promise. It really sucks that its not going to get made.


What baffles me most is projects with far superior art, animations and over all game play systems make it much father than Hero's Song did in much smaller Indy studios. So why is this failing rather than trimming to bar minimum staff and continuing?!


I guess this is an indie studio that can't live with indie payscales.

Armsbend
Armsbend

@Winterstone well they had some pretty big investors.  Maybe the investors wanted out.

agemyth
agemyth

Woof... Sorry to hear that Smed (I bet he visits MOP sometimes). There were some talented people employed at Pixelmage, so I hope they land on their feet.

I wanted what Hero's Song promised, but just could not bring myself to spend money on it as an Early Access product yet. Seems this time I was justified.

I'm certainly going to have to track down a copy of the game online just to see what they were able to make in the short life. That would be after things shut down officially though.

pid
pid

What I didn't like of this game was walking into nothingness for hours on end. Showing this (look it up on youtube or below) was the big mistake. Also completely amateurish usage of twitch and other media. The concept may even have been interesting but the execution lacked on all ends, and it was not a matter of money but simply competence (or lack thereof).


https://youtu.be/cNIZ00JAdzI?t=9m00s

agemyth
agemyth

@pid The execution lacked on all ends... like it was an unfinished game.

NemuiByakko
NemuiByakko

HAHAHA

Honestly, I hate this man. I think his ambitions were the main reason of SOE meltdown, far more important than Sony's financial troubles. It would be good never hear about him again.

agemyth
agemyth

@Lights_andMusic @agemyth "If I were to open a restaurant and serve shitty food with shitty service would you be surprised and saddened when said shitty restaurant went out of business?" 

If the owner of the restaurant seemed like an alright and well intentioned person I would not find amusement in that person shutting the business down. The employees are usually the ones most affected when a game studio shuts down.

Pixel Mage was a small studio, but my assumption is it was a close knit group of passionate people making a game that sounded good on paper and they just didn't execute or it didn't find an audience in time. It was not yet known if PM was a shitty company with shitty service/games. Some people don't like Smed and that is fine. I do not see what good wishing him to fail in everything he does which hurts the whole group.

"I'm not saying people should be happy when others lose their employment - but what exactly do you propose the appropriate response would be for someone who does not adequately perform their job duties?"

A shrug. Wish them well next time. Hope they learn from the failure. Hope that the loss of jobs does not lead to serious financial difficulties for families.

Lights_andMusic
Lights_andMusic

@agemyth @Lights_andMusic "I would not find amusement in that person shutting the business down. " 

Literally no one is suggesting that.  

"Pixel Mage was a small studio...etc."

Again, no one is arguing they weren't well intentioned people. How is the fact that they had good intentions relevant in any way to their job performance? I'm sure they are all very nice people and I wish them the best, I certainly don't think that justifies funding their employment, do you?

The question was, what is your proposed alternative to termination when a business fails to meet the needs of its customers? As is clearly the case here.   


agemyth
agemyth

@NemuiByakko People lost their jobs here, so try not to be so delighted at this kind of news.

Lights_andMusic
Lights_andMusic

@agemyth @NemuiByakko "People lost their jobs here, so try not to be so delighted at this kind of news."

I always find this to be a weird response - If I were to open a restaurant and serve shitty food with shitty service would you be surprised and saddened when said shitty restaurant went out of business?  

I'm not saying people should be happy when others lose their employment - but what exactly do you propose the appropriate response would be for someone who does not adequately perform their job duties?  More money and a pat on the back?  Why not apply the same standards you follow in everyday life to video game development 

breetoplay
breetoplay moderator

@Lights_andMusic @agemyth Literally someone was finding amusement in the shutdown. The very first post ^ being responded to begins with "HAHAHA," hence this whole tangent.

Jacra
Jacra

I never got why this would be exciting. Like Trove with an overarching history and no islands to build and decorate, wasn't it? Trove at least you have this massive version you can jump in and out very quickly and get rewarded quick and can play for free. Still boring soon. But Hero's Song? What is heroic if there is a constant hack and slash with other hack and slasher producing more hack and slash?

(Oh and throw in permadeath, of course. Because who does not love Permadeath to restart the hack and slash all over?)

ammalis
ammalis

I like playing rouge like games. I liked some of the ideas -especially crafting ones. I would give this one some time after its launch. I'm bit sad to never check it.

ammalis
ammalis

As I'm reading more about Hero's Song, I want to play Starbound. It have pixel art, crafting, permadeath (if player wants), coop, exploration and bit of story and quests... I think anyone who now misses HS could try this one.

I'm still bit sad for this cancellation information. 

Grimalkin
Grimalkin

So why were we calling this "MMO" again?

pid
pid

@Grimalkin Because in the "project plan" it was thought of to be an actual "MMO" much like Ultima Online and similar isometric MMORPGs of yonder age. The fact that it wasn't one is due to the early stage of (under)development.

mysecretid
mysecretid

@Grimalkin 

From the `About' section of the Massively website:

"Massively Overpowered still strives to deliver nuanced and entertaining news, streams, and editorials focused on the vibrant massively multiplayer online roleplaying games market and orbiting genres."

Wakkander
Wakkander

2016 thirsts still for your sacrifices.

Fenryr
Fenryr

@mysecretid @Wakkander could you pls stop to personify a freaking year? It's just a arbitrary number for an  orbit of an arbitrary planet.   

Estranged
Estranged

@Fenryr @mysecretid @Wakkander Yeah, we talk about the games and entertainers that died, but don't think about the millions whom have left this Earth that have performed glorious deeds.  

pid
pid

@Fenryr @mysecretid @Wakkander No. Arbitrarity is subjective. A random guy/gal on the the street may look "arbitrary" to you but not to those who know them. If you know this planet and lived this year you cannot consider it arbitrary anymore.

Fenryr
Fenryr

It is arbitrary, we could also have start counting the years from the founding of Rome, or the orbit of freaking Jupiter. We could have said that that midsummer is the end of an orbit. It's all arbitrary.

Armsbend
Armsbend

@Miskav @mysecretid @Wakkander I think it is going to be a good year.  A lot of the big MMOs are shaping up for a 2018 release.  2016 was good from a shake the branches perspective.  Most of the bad news was from bad companies that deserve to suffer. 

melissaheather
melissaheather

@Miskav @mysecretid @Wakkander 2017 is when PlayStation VR becomes a desired product in numbers unexpected by all the naysayers.   I say this because the cutting-edge JAUNT VR film company (headed up by former Lucasfilm and Industrial Light & Magic executives) have just released their App (with lots of interesting experiences inside) for PSVR.

Jaunt makes some really amazing live-action-film VR experiences across a wide range of subjects and themes, from VR travel to horror.

This is one of the premier content providers for VR right now, although it isn't gaming per se, it is a cornerstone player that is creating content that knocks people's socks off when they see it.

https://www.jauntvr.com/


mysecretid
mysecretid

@Wakkander 

Yes. This year has been such a continuing crapfest in far too many ways ... bring on 2017, I'm already done with 2016.

Wakkander
Wakkander

@melissaheather @Miskav @mysecretid @Wakkander I remain skeptical of VR. It is an interesting technology and I've had fun with it, but it is a fledgling technology that hasn't quite found its footing. This is further inhibited by its large investment required by people.

Jaunt was on other VR, and it isn't like the one video I saw (Invasion) was particularly impressive. It isn't likely to change the landscape in any dramatic way in one year.

VR, despite the pleas of its faithful, has the following hurdles:

Too Expensive.
No Killer App(s).
Lack of understanding of the medium.

They will need to fix at least two of these for it to start taking off in a bigger way, and I don't see that happening in 12 months. Frankly I think limitations on the current VR options will leave it in the same place we see 3d TVs today. There was a lot of hype from hardware manufacturers for them as well but the inherent limitations of the technology, the added expense, and poor usage of 3d by film makers led to it being largely abandoned outside of theaters despite big pushes for it over several years by those behind it.

Or maybe they will get the costs down, some killer titles will be released; an understanding of the strengths and cons of the format will be understood and adapted to by the people making these games, I just see it as highly unlikely.

Lights_andMusic
Lights_andMusic

@Fenryr If you argument is that Time is a man-made concept - fine. Cool story.  But it's not really relevant to anything.